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Man accused of stabbing daughter to death in front of park rangers; may face death penalty

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – United States Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Asheville has returned a criminal indictment against Seth Pickering, charging him with one count of first degree murder for allegedly killing his daughter, Lila Pickering.

Seth Pickering, 36, of Leicester, N.C. was arrested on state charges on September 9, 2016 for Lila Pickering’s murder. On September 13, 2016, a criminal complaint was filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, bringing federal charges against Seth Pickering in connection with Lila Pickering’s death.

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division; Neal D. Labrie, Chief Ranger of the Blue Ridge Parkway; and Sheriff Van Duncan of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.

The criminal bill of indictment alleges that on September 9, 2016, Seth Pickering did unlawfully kill a human being within the boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway, that person being his daughter, Lila Pickering, who had not attained the age of 18 years and was under his care and control. The indictment further alleges that Seth Pickering killed Lila Pickering willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation, and in the perpetration of child abuse, that being knowingly and intentionally causing death and bodily injury to a child.

According to the citizen-times.com:

Seth Pickering
Seth Pickering

Two National Park Service rangers spotted an out-of-place car parked in a grassy area near the Blue Ridge Parkway, and saw a man and child down a steep embankment.The rangers watched Pickering build a small fire and suspected he might be poaching ginseng. Shortly after one ranger greeted him, the father lunged toward his daughter without warning, stabbing her in the heart and a lung, according to federal officials.

“Now they will never be able to take her away from me,” Pickering late told a ranger, according to a federal complaint.

Seth Pickering is currently in federal custody. He is scheduled to appear in federal court today. The penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison or death. The indictment includes a Notice of Special Sentencing Factors which could permit the United States to seek the death penalty. The Department of Justice has not yet announced whether it will seek the death penalty.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Rose thanked the FBI, the National Park Service and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast and David Thorneloe of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville are prosecuting the case.

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